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Castorboy

Alan Sillitoe

Although advertised as a sequel to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with its hard drinking, hard-working Arthur Seaton, Birthday is as much about Brian Seaton as his brother. It would be logical to think it would be Arthur who wants to leave Nottingham city to seek new adventures, and women, instead it is the bookish Brian who is the traveler who makes his fortune in London by television script writing. So on his return he notices with fondness what familiar landmarks and stamping grounds of his youth are still upstanding. He’d never stopped regarding his home city with affection whatever had happened to it. No matter how an area had changed, his mind could recall events without the need of maps. It is Arthur who is bitter about the changes; he laments how the trams, the pawnshops, and pictures at the local flea-pit have been replaced by cars, halal shops, and videos and television in the confines of the high-rise flats. These observations are made on the way to a surprise party to celebrate the 70th birthday of Jenny, Brian’s childhood sweetheart. Now that Jenny is a widow, somehow everyone seems to hope the two of them will rekindle that, if not passion, then the acceptance of the companionship experienced formerly. In reality, that hope cannot happen. Brain is still restless for change in his own life. Two failed marriages are a sign that he expects too much from any woman who manages to enter his life. The novel finishes with a cup of tea as the septuagenarian brothers part. Arthur to his mundane routine in Nottingham while Brian is off in the morning to the attractions of Highgate.

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